Leaky defence leads to prosecution

Release Date: 14/02/2017

A building contractor who dug a trench through a public pavement so he could hack into a water pipe to increase the water pressure at a house he was making ‘improvements’ to has been prosecuted by Richmond Council.

The filled-in trench led straight to his customer’s front door in Buckingham Road, Hampton, and was spotted by a Richmond Council enforcement officer during a routine inspection in August last year. Chung Soo Jung told Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court that at the time of the offence he was unaware that he was committing a crime – despite admitting that he did not seek permission from Richmond Council to dig up the pavement or request access to the water pipe from Thames Water.

The 39-year-old, who plans to undertake a course in plumbing and electrics, admitted that in hindsight and following an interview with a Richmond Council enforcement officer, he could see that he had committed a criminal offence. He pleaded guilty to the charge of breaking open the public highway without permission at his Magistrates’ Court appearance on Tuesday 7 February.

During the court hearing, the Magistrates heard that Jung felt the repair work he had independently carried out by filling in the trench was ‘a good job’. He added that all he thought Richmond Council would need to do would be to ‘inspect the pavement’. However repair work was needed and Jung reimbursed the Council of the £107 costs when the work was carried out.

The court was told that the filled-in trench had been dug and filled in unlawfully and that it led from the water pipe and straight to his customer’s front door. The court was told that no street works permit or licence had been applied for or issued by the Council for this work, nor did Jung have public liability insurance to cover the work.

Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Streetscene, Cllr Peter Buckwell, said:

“This is a very special case and seems to have been caused by a certain naivety on the part of Mr Chung Soo Jung. I don’t imagine however, there are many people who live in the borough who think this kind of behaviour is either acceptable or lawful. It does serve as a reminder to the select few who think it is all right to carry out work on a public highway without any kind of permission or insurance that they certainly aren't permitted to do so.”

Giving credit to his early guilty plea, Magistrates told Jung that ignorance of the law was no excuse for breaking it. They sentenced Jung to a fine of £150, court costs of £100 and a victim surcharge of £30. Given Jung’s limited resources he was ordered to repay the fines and legal costs totalling £280 at a rate of £40 per month.

Updated: 14 February 2017